Triple Agent review

:. Director: Eric Rohmer
:. Starring: Katerina Didaskalu, Serge Renko
:. Script: Eric Rohmer
:. Running Time: 1:55
:. Year: 2004
:. Original Title: Triple Agent
:. Country: France
:. Official Site: Triple Agent

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Eric Rohmer and spies! You probably wouldn't expect to see these words in the same sentence, just like Michael Bay and arts is an oxymoron.

Surprisingly enough, however, Rohmer delivers a fascinating look at real-life spies and geopolitics in Triple Agent, a slow-paced and minimalist film mostly evolving around the discussions between Fiodor, a man with a mysterious job (Serge Renko) and Arsinoé, his beautiful artist wife (Katerina Didaskalu).

All we know for sure is that we are in Paris, on the eve of the Second World War and that Fiodor is an ex-Russian officer now lobbying against his former masters. While he's still interested in the intimacy between a man and a woman, the relationship is this time left in the background, love being used as a setting to emphasize what interests Rohmer the most here: the world of intelligence and geopolitics. Triple Agent is probably the only spy movie taking place mostly through the conversations between a man and a woman. You could call it a film version of a play, except that as you may know, the director doesn't use his camera in a conventionally cinematic way. As always, his approach is quite minimalist, just following his characters without adding any visual ingredient that might create a diversion from the subject.

Beside the elements relating to the conspiracy, the only other discussion he dares to introduce in this film is about art, opposing Russian surrealism to the more academic European works. Of course what he means is that free and open-minded spirits are not a monopoly of the West - without having to go through an art history lesson, just look at Cold War era Russian movie posters and you will understand.

The other interesting point in Triple Agent is that Rohmer clearly establishes real-life spies as anti-heroic figures, the total opposites of a James Bond. His agents are middle-aged and baldy, most of the action being shown in the form of chitchats between old men in salons - a vision shared by Robert De Niro's recent The Good Shepherd. He even pushes the envelope to make these conspiracy masters cowards, the only strong and brave character here is Arsinoé.

In the end, the fate of the world seems to be held in a chess game between Stalin and Hitler through their armies of boring intellectual elders. Philosophy rules over action, and Rohmer deglamorizes war, spies and their subsequent movie genres. Could it mean that all this time we've been duped by the Michael Bays of the world?

  Fred Thom

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